A fan of Anthony Burgess, Stanley Kubrick or possibly Rob Zombie may understand the name of this cocktail, but for the unenlightened, the phrase "red red kroovy" comes from the book/movie “A Clockwork Orange”. It is used by the main character, Alex, to describe blood in the fictional Nadsat language. The phrase was subsequently used in the chorus of Rob Zombie’s song “Never Gonna Stop” and as the songs sub/alternate title. Intriguing history, interesting name, bountiful connections, drink related video—sounds like the basis for a new cocktail.
I first watched A Clockwork Orange at a party while I was in high school back in 1988 or thereabouts. We had convened at our friend Rob Robley’s place with our contraband drinks, mostly beer. I clearly remember asking “what is this?” about the movie. If you haven’t watched the movie, it’s one that will stick with you.
Fast forward ten years to the late 1990s. The rock and alternative music scene have been hollowed out by a series of deaths and extended drug issues amongst some of the best musicians for a generation. The rise in the popularity of bands like Creed and Matchbox Twenty (blech!) created a musical void for many Generation X’ers. Electronica filled the hole for some, but I still preferred that grungy rock sound created in the early 90s. A few bands were still creating similar music, like Rob Zombie, who was a bright light in the dim world of music.
Rob Zombie is one of the more talented musicians in the world of rock. Not only does he create great music—subjective, I know, but he has been nominated for four Grammy awards—he also directs all of his music videos, is a Hollywood movie director and publishes his own comic book amongst other things.
Jumping to 2001, the album The Sinister Urge was released by Rob Zombie. Ten years after the album's release, I was digging through some old CD’s and found the case, but not the disc. So I decided to visit YouTube to see if I could find the videos. I found the video for “Never Gonna Stop (Red Red Kroovy)” which I don’t remember ever watching. The video is heavily inspired by the movie A Clockwork Orange, which flashed me back to high school, which then inspired a new name for a cocktail. As I’ve said before, inspiration comes from odd places. Watch the video, but for full effect turn up the volume.
When I create a new cocktail, I often need a good name for inspiration, something with history and meaning. The Wet Grave is a good example of my development methodology. In the case of the Red Red Kroovy, there’s a link to a great book and an equally compelling movie that is socially relevant and still influencing people half a century later. The name even meshes with the deathly ironic names given to cocktails in the 1800s.
Once I have an interesting name, the hard part comes next, creating the cocktail. With the name being Red Red Kroovy there is an obvious requirement for the drink to be red. I had started with the idea of creating something with scotch, a la Blood and Sand, but I was trying to avoid the obvious sweet vermouth combination, and Cherry Heering wasn’t working at all. I made the executive decision to scrap whisky, sweet vermouth and Cherry Heering and moved to gin.
Now, there aren’t many red liqueurs with a pedigree. Sour Puss Raspberry and Aftershock Cinnamon aren’t even in my inventory, so that left creme de cassis, Campari and Chambord. The combination of Campari and gin gets too close to the Negroni, so for kicks, I picked Chambord, and it worked.
With the base spirit and liqueur picked, it was time for some balancing and enhancing components. Obviously, something bitter was required, and I decided to go with the Czech Becherovka bitter. Becherovka is a 76 proof bitter with anise, cinnamon, clove, orange and ginger as the key components. One good thing is that Becherovka doesn’t have caramel colouring and is relatively clear (slightly yellow), so it doesn’t turn the cocktail brown. It’s also on the general list at the LCBO. I think I was subliminally influenced to use this bitter because of the Red Moon cocktail it is often found in.
The last two components were Lactart and orange bitters. Why Lactart? Let’s call it a tip of the hat to the Korova Milk Bar featured in the book, movie and music video. Lactart was advertised as “the acid of milk” in the late 1800s. Plus I wanted something that would balance the sweetness but not interfere with the flavour of the gin and Becherovka. If you don’t have Lactart, you can buy some, or failing that I’d think lime juice would work better than lemon.
The choice of gin was G’Vine Nouaison as it has complimentary flavours to Becherovka.
Red Red Kroovy
1 oz Gin (G’Vine Nouaison)
½ oz Chambord
¼ oz Becherovka
4 dashes Lactart
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Instructions: In a mixing glass packed with ice add the ingredients and stir thoroughly until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail or rocks glass and serve. Can be served on the rocks if desired.
This recipe is a bit tricky, as it has a hard edge, but what would you expect from something influenced by Rob Zombie? Too much Becherovka gives it a medicinal taste, while too much Lactart neutralizes the sweetness in the cocktail, putting it out of balance. I’m still tempted to try some sweet vermouth in it, but I’ll wait.
And there you have it, the Red Red Kroovy.